The Importance of Proper Data Hygiene for Associations

In this guide, we’ll define data hygiene, explain why it’s important, and provide some data hygiene best practices. Let’s get started!

Chances are, your association already uses data to help you make decisions about member outreach, acquisition, and retention. However, if that data contains inaccuracies, you may draw incorrect conclusions about your members.

Enter data hygiene: Associations often understand the importance of data but not necessarily the importance of data hygiene—or keeping data clean. That’s why we’ve compiled and answered a list of common data hygiene questions.

In this guide, we’ll define data hygiene, explain why it’s important, and provide some data hygiene best practices. Let’s get started!

What is data hygiene?

AccuData defines data hygiene as the process of ensuring data is clean—or error-free. Errors, in this context, include outdated, incomplete, duplicated, or incorrect information.

While you may think of your database as a source of truth, it’s very easy for errors to invade your data. From entering a phone number incorrectly to duplicating an email address, errors can occur at any stage in the data management process.

However, as easy as it is for errors to occur in your data, it’s even easier to fix them with the help of data hygiene practices.

How can proper data hygiene benefit associations?

While data helps associations make better decisions, clean data helps to inform the best decisions. If you regularly collect and maintain accurate data about your members, then you can transform that data into valuable insights that inform your member recruitment, retention, and renewal efforts. That way, you’ll stand out among other associations that may not put their data to good use.

With accurate data about members’ preferences, demographics, and history with your association, you can make well-informed decisions regarding the following areas:

  • Member recruitment: When you obtain new leads, the best way to convert them into members is to learn as much information about them as possible. Enter all the data you have on potential leads into your database, and consider sending a survey to collect even more. That way, you can find out their preferences and implement them into your recruitment outreach and subsequent onboarding process. For example, if a lead prefers to be contacted by email, send all further recruitment communications to them via email. Once leads are converted to members, you can ask them to confirm their relevant information to ensure it’s accurate in your database.

  • Member retention: Extending your appreciation to members encourages their continued involvement. Personalize communications by addressing members by name and implementing segmentation. For example, you might want to send different messages to new members, members of two to five years, and members of over five years. Lastly, you can increase member retention by releasing an annual survey and storing important insights in your database. When you take members’ suggestions and preferences into account, you’re more likely to keep them around.

  • Member upgrades and renewals: It can be difficult to broach the subject of membership upgrades with existing members, but implementing data and personalizing communications can help. Reference your database to make sure you’re only reaching out to those with the financial ability to up their contribution to a higher membership tier. Then, tailor Fundraising Letters’ membership renewal templates to your members’ interests, preferences, and demographics. For example, if the member you’re contacting is a frequent event attendee, include information about upcoming events to entice them to renew their membership.

Using data at every stage of the membership lifecycle will set you apart from other associations and offer the best possible experience for your members. Remember to regularly check in with leads and members to ensure you have updated contact, preference, and demographic information from them.

What are data hygiene best practices?

Keeping up with data hygiene allows you to quickly identify and resolve any issues in your database before they result in a waste of resources. In turn, you can spend more time engaging your members and less time revamping your database.

Follow these steps to create a healthy data hygiene routine:

  1. Audit your database: To begin, take stock of the data you have. If you have important information in spreadsheets and physical forms, make sure to transfer that information into your database. Then, identify any inaccuracies in your data and how long it will take to resolve them. You can do this by hand or, if your database is too large for manual auditing, you’ll need to find a tool to assist you.

  2. Remove inaccurate information: Get rid of the inaccuracies you discovered during your audit. That way, you can ensure you’re not wasting resources contacting the wrong people. Make sure to delete data from deceased members, use an email scrubbing tool to update email addresses, and merge any duplicate records.

  3. Append missing data: During your database audit, you might notice you’re missing some important information. For example, you might find that some members prefer to be contacted by phone but have only supplied their addresses. In that case, you could conduct a data append with the help of a data provider. Data providers find the information you need from third-party sources and add it to your database. In addition to phone numbers, they can also append social media handles, email addresses, net worth, employment status, and giving history. Just make sure you’re working with a data provider that sources member data ethically from public or proprietary sources, adheres to privacy standards like SOC 2 Type II compliance, and follows all applicable data and privacy laws in your state or country.

  4. Standardize the data hygiene process: When you create consistency in your data hygiene routine, you’ll save time and energy so that you can focus on using your data effectively. One way to standardize the process is to create data input rules. For example, decide if you want your team to use address abbreviations such as “Rd” and “St” or stick to the full words: “Road” and “Street.” You can also host training sessions to ensure your team knows exactly how to enter, clean, and analyze member data.

Proper data hygiene is worth the time and resources because it can improve your member relations and outreach. Setting aside some of your marketing budget to invest in a data provider will help you to gain a better understanding of your members and communicate with them more effectively.

While some people think of customer service as strictly a business term, associations also benefit from providing the best possible member service. Using accurate, updated information about your members allows you to do just that, all while creating a strong sense of community and advancing your mission.